Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Murphy not returning devastates Buccaneers WR corps

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Russell Shepard (89) runs with the ball during a Preseason National Football League game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)
Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire

With Vincent Jackson on injured reserve and likely out for the season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were hoping to make up the absence with the return of wide receiver Louis Murphy. He has been out all season while recovering from ACL injury suffered last year.

Murphy began the season on the league’s physically unable to perform list but returned to practice three weeks ago, which started a 21-day window that would allow the veteran receiver to practice with the team before a decision had to be made.

On today, the Buccaneers made a decision. Because of a setback in his recovery, the Buccaneers have decided to place Murphy on the league’s reserve/physically unable to perform list, thus ending his season before it even begins.

It’s a tough setback for Murphy, who had worked hard to return from the knee injury. He was so hyped prior to returning to practice he said he couldn’t sleep leading up to the day. Now he will have to wait another season to get started again.

For the Buccaneers, the move isn’t what they had hoped either. Murphy was the consistent receiver the Buccaneers were looking to replace Jackson. In seven previous seasons, Murphy averaged 14.3 yards per catch. He had 162 catches for 2,322 yards and 10 touchdowns in his career.

Now the Buccaneers will need another receiver to step up and perform opposite Mike Evans. While Evans has averaged more than seven catches and nearly 90 yards during Jackson’s absence (including an 11-catch, 150-yard performance against the Atlanta Falcons), the other receivers have been inconsistent.

Russell Shepard seemed ready to shed his special-teams only role with touchdowns in his first two games of increased playing time, he suffered an injured hip against Oakland and missed the game against Atlanta. His status for Sunday is not known yet. He did not practice Monday.

Adam Humphries is the team’s third receiver and the Buccaneers are happy with him in that role. Cecil Shorts III and Freddie Martino have three catches combined this season although Shorts is coming off of a hamstring injury and Martino was recently re-signed to the team.

The team also has Donteea Dye on the practice squad while just signing Justin Huff, although Huff is known more for his special teams.

The Buccaneers have been reluctant to bring in a lot of outside help. Shorts was signed after training camp and had a chance to catch up with the playbook while missing three games with the hamstring injury. Martino and Dye were with the team during the offseason.

The team did use outside help at another position – running back. But the two signees – Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith – were familiar with head coach’s Dirk Koetter’s offensive scheme. They both were in Atlanta when Koetter was the team’s offensive coordinator.

A better rushing game would help the passing attack, an area that also has struggled during the team’s current two-game losing streak. Tampa Bay rushed 27 times for 102 yards in an overtime loss to Oakland but had just 73 yards on 19 carries in the loss to Atlanta. The club believes having a balanced offensive attack with the running game will help the passing game.

The Buccaneers like the receivers they have but they’re going to have to be consistent to make sure the team doesn’t make any more moves.

Notes: The Buccaneers announced they placed defensive end Howard Jones and running back Antone Smith on injured reserve and promoted running back Russell Hansbrough from the practice squad to the active roster. Both players were injured in the team’s Thursday night loss to the Falcons. Koetter said Monday Evans and Kevin Pamphile were still both in the league’s concussion protocol program but Evans is further along and practiced Monday.

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